Sheldon Kirshner
Sheldon Kirshner

The Blemished Tokyo Olympic Games

The Tokyo Olympic Games began with the usual flourishes, but the abrupt dismissal of Kentaro Kobayashi as the creative director of its opening ceremony lends some credence to the theory that it may be jinxed.

Kobayashi was sacked on July 22, only one day before the start of the summer Games, after a disturbing video emerged in which he poked fun at the Holocaust during a comedy show in 1998 called Let’s Play Holocaust.

In his totally tasteless, offensive and moronic skit, he joked about “massacring Jews” while cutting up human figures made of paper.

Much to her credit, Japan’s minister in charge of the Olympics, Seiko Hashimoto, wasted no time and fired Kobayashi immediately. “We found out that (he) had used a a phrase ridiculing a historical tragedy,” she said in an accurate description of his vile behavior. “We deeply apologize for causing such a development.”

As expected, Kobayashi was contrite. Claiming his “choice of words” had been “wrong,” he apologized “to those who felt displeasure,” and promptly vanished.

Kobayashi’s apology was necessary and is welcomed, but the fact that he resorted to antisemitism to fill out his lame comedy sketch is nothing short of disgraceful and yet one more unpleasant reminder that anti-Jewish animus is planted deeply in societies, even those inhabited by negligible number of Jews.

The Kobayashi incident was not only embarrassing but indicative of the scandals and miscues that have plagued these Games.

Four months ago, Kobayashi’s predecessor, Hiroshi Sasaki, was forced to resign after he stupidly compared a popular comedian to a pig. Several weeks earlier, the president of the Olympics organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, stepped down after making sexist remarks about women.

Just days before Kobayashi was sacked, Keigo Oyamada, whose music was scheduled to be played at the opening ceremony, was dismissed because, as a youth, he had bullied school classmates.

Due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the Games were delayed by a year. And because the infection rate in Japan has been on the rise of late, the only spectators on hand to watch the various sporting events will be a pathetic sprinkling of officials, journalists and guests.

The unprecedented and glaring absence of crowds will surely sap the Games of energy, deflate the Olympics psychologically, and cost Japan dearly in financial terms.

If cooler heads had prevailed, the Olympics would have been postponed until the contagion had completely subsided. Judging by the latest surveys, the majority of Japanese people were in favor of a postponement. Their misgivings were ignored.

In a poor reflection of their judgment, the powers-that-be were hell-bent on proceeding with the Games, no matter the consequences.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal, SheldonKirshner.com
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